By Jacob Ajom
The letter from basketball governing body, FIBA penultimate week has, no doubt tilted the balance of power in favour of the Musa Kida-led board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation. Although the letter was clear that in terms of communication with the NBBF, they will deal with the Musa Kida-led board, in the concluding part of the letter, FIBA was equivocal when they said none of the groups had been accorded full recognition until a re-election or an in-house reconciliation is achieved.
Following the letter, Tijani Umar, leader of one of the groups made an open declaration, calling for a peaceful resolution of the issues at stake. He said they were ready for any peace move.
Saturday Sports Vanguard caught up with Babs Ogunade, Vice President of the Musa Kida-led board at the NBBF Secretariat during the final of the Zenith Women Basketball League in Lagos. He spoke with Jacob Ajom. Excerpts:
What is your reaction to the letter from FIBA?I am not a member of FIBA, neither am I a member of the NOC. I am just the Vice President of the Nigeria Basketball Federation. The NOC has been unequivocal about the elections since the day of the vote, so also has FIBA, based on the letter they sent to Nigerians and to all the affiliate federations.
But the Tijani-Umar board are saying the letter does not accord legitimacy to any group
This letter is open to several interpretations. I will leave everybody to interpret it the way he wants because there is a tendency that some people may want to see a green light where there is none.
However, all I will love to say here is that the board has a job to do. For instance, we have the female Afrobasket in Mali next month, we have the U-16 Championship in Mozambique next month; the Afrobasket Men is coming up in Tunisia and Senegal very soon; we have the youth games, which is the conveyer belt, the nexus of all our operations coming up in Ilorin. All of this involves age-grade players from all over the country and we are to midwife this. There is so much to do.
I see the other group competing for recognition as a distraction, so I will leave everybody to interpret the way they want. If I give ten people a writeup to read and interpret I don’t think they all will give me the same interpretation of that write up. FIBA has spoken, the NOC has spoken and they have sent out the list of all newly elected boards to all the federations. We just have to leave those bodies to do their jobs.
How do you do away with what you call distractions and begin the job you were elected for?
I just told you we have a lot to do, we need to be focused. We will soon address all that.
A couple of years ago some band leaders called themselves Commandars-in-Chief, Commodores, Marshals, etc but that did not make them what they called themselves. You can choose to call yourself anything, that is what you want. You have a right to do that but the moment you overstep your bounds, the law will catch up with you.
What we should be talking about is that we need everybody to come on board for the sake of basketball. But while we are embracing peace, we cannot justify criminality and failure.
As we speak, we don’t have a handover note from the previous board after 8 years in office. Those documents do not belong to anybody, they belong to the federal government. The out-gone board was holding that office in trust for Nigerians. To me that is the issue. We want everybody to be accountable – and they would be.
Has there been any communication between the new board and the former board?
For now no. I have been on the care taker committee before. There is supposed to be a lacuna between an outgoing board and the incoming board. The Secretary General calls in stake holders or interested groups who will manage the affairs of the federation until the new board takes over. We did not even have that; not even a handover note. Now that we have been inaugurated we are beginning to ask questions..
The former board is accusing those of you in the new board to have taken them to court because their election was organised by the ministry, which shouldn’t have been. Now you are endorsing the ministry’s organised election as the authentic election. Why?
Anybody can make claims and cook up stories to back those claims. I was a part of that group. All we did was to go against a fractured electoral process. What happened? They substituted Colonel Sam Ahmedu’s name with another person’s and Col Sam was the most senior FIBA member in Nigeria then. For now I won’t name names but when the time comes I will name them. There are six elective zones and four of those zones voted against T J Umar, the four zones representing 24 states voted against him, so we were fighting a fractured election process.
This year, he did not even buy a form to contest, so he wasn’t a candidate. For you to win a lottery, you must first buy a ticket. They did not even come for the elections. In their wisdom or lack of it, they went to Kano. You cannot choose to obay the law the way you want. You agree that the government could dissolve your board, the board was dissolved.
They now said you go out for election because the election is a fallout of the dissolution. Everybody went to Abuja to have their elections and you went to Kano to hold your elections a day ahead of the Abuja elections. There was neither the ministry nor the NOC in Kano. They are a bunch of time wasters.
The FIBA statute is clear and unambiguous that one can only do two terms, so you cannot be claiming on the one hand that you are complying with FIBA Statute and on the other hand you are doing what the very same statute claim against. There is no third term in the statute.